Wellfleet citizens have been in a struggle with the state over a controversial plan to extend the existing Rail Trail to an already congested stretch of Route 6. The plan has been widely opposed by local citizens as dangerous as well as inconsistent with the idea of a scenic and peaceful bike trail.
So it was a surprise to read our Town Administrator’s take on the situation in an email that’s been circulating.
In this email–”forwarded to the zoning board” according to a member of that board– the TA reports on a recent meeting with the state and others and talks about how well the state’s efforts to extend the Rail Trail to Route 6 are going, including sidewalks and bike lanes along the highway and a certain distance down Main St. toward downtown. He sums up: “I think we are making good progress on the design for the area based on public input.”
I had to read that twice: Progress? Work on extending the bike path to Route 6 is progress? Based on public input? Really?
In the past several months there have been several well-publicized expressions of public input, all unambiguously against the state’s plan. A well-attended public hearing was almost unanimously against extended the bike path to Route 6. Town meeting in April with a near-unanimous vote passed a resolution against the idea. And, according to former Select Board member Dale Donovan, an anti-extension petition signed by 1100 people is being to be submitted to the state.
Public input has made it very clear that no design which leads thousands of bikers (in season) to Route 6, with the attraction of downtown Wellfleet beckoning them past numerous perilous curbcuts can be seen as progress.
The TA’s upbeat report of “progress”based on public input” seems in deliberate disregard of public input.
When asked about this seeming discrepancy between his opinion and that of expressed public opinion on what constitutes progress on the rail trail, he replied that “There are a number of people in Town who have spoken to me and are in support of the extension of the Rail Trail” and “Because there are people both for and against the Rail Trail extension, I do not take a side and I do not represent either side.” But his declaration that continuing work on the extension constitutes progress would seem indeed to be taking sides, the side of an obvious minority against almost all expressed public opinion.
An email to members of the Select Board about the TA’s email elicited no response.
According to a member of the Bike and Walkways Committee, the Select Board has also been divided and ineffective in supporting the town meeting resolution and other expressed wishes of most citizens in negotiations with the state. When that committee asked the Select Board to sign a letter to Gov. Baker and state agencies supporting the town’s near unanimous town vote in town meeting, two members of the board stated their support for the state plan to bring the Rail Trail to Route 6 and voted against signing. Another wanted to wait and have the Select Board write its own letter, which has apparently not happened yet.
The TA in his email says “The Rail Trail extension is a project of the Mass. DCR, it is not a Town project,” and therefore, seems his implication, he or other agents of the town should basically butt out. But when the state experts came to town last year to pitch the idea of a roundabout in the same area of Route 6 they had the wisdom to withdraw that idea when they heard the resounding rejection of it on the part of locals, those most affected and with the most experience of the area.
Such an outcome should be possible here, but not without our town leaders–paid employees and elected reps–getting clear whose side they are on in this matter of great importance to our town.